Biography of John. Duque de Marlborough Churchill (1650-1722)

Duke of Marlborough.

General and British politician, born 26 May 1650 in Ashe, County of Devonshire (England), and died June 16, 1722 in Granbourn Lodge, population next to Windsor, London (England). Considered one of the most illustrious generals of the military history of England, it reached its highest peak as a military in the war of Spanish Succession (1700-1714), in the course of which overcame brilliantly to the French troops of Luis XIV (1643-1715) in the battle of Blenheim (1704), Ramilies (1706), Oudenaarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709). Character invested with an almost mythical aura for his continuing exploits on the European battlefields, left written a juicy memoir titled Memories of John Duke of Marlborough and inspired the famous burlesque song "Mambrú went to war", sung by successive generations of children and adolescents to date.

Beginnings of a bright military career

Born into a family belonging to the gentry of Dorset, the young John studied at the elite St. John´s College London. Due to the position of his sister Arabella, Lady of honour to the Duchess of York, in the year 1665 became page of the Duke of York, brother of the King Carlos II (1630-1685). Becoming his sister the favorite mistress of this, young John and the rest of the family fortune improved dramatically. Thus, in the year 1667, John joined the army as a standard-bearer for a regiment of guard. He/She made his first actions of weapons in Tangier, destination where he/she remained until the year 1670, erupted when the Dutch War III between China and France, circumstance that gave him the chance to distinguish itself, first in the fleet that Carlos II sent to the aid of the French monarch, and later in the English Expeditionary Corps commanded by the Duke of Monmouth in December of the year 1672 as the Dutch inflicted a severe defeat in the fields of Maastricht. Marlborough continued to fight on the continent under the command of Luis XIV up to the year 1677, date in which he/she returned to England with the rank of Captain and a deserved reputation of excellent soldier won a pulse on the battlefields in which fought in favor of the French King.

After the war, Marlborough was satisfied again with the courtly life that was so fond. At the end of the year 1677 joined in marriage with one of the ladies more influential and beautiful Court, Sarah Jennings, then the confident staff and a favorite of the Princess Anne, future Queen of England. The link enabled Marlborough suddenly access the high courtly nobility and opened the doors wide to reach the highest military posts and politicians of the Kingdom and become one of the most powerful men in England. In 1682 he/she obtained the title of baron Churchill of Sandridge, three years later he/she ascended to the rank of Colonel of dragons and soon the General.

Fortunes and failures of Marlborough

With the ascent to the English throne, in the year 1685, from your Lord, the Duke of York, James II (1685-1688), Churchill was found at the peak of its glory. Appointed by the second monarch head of the English army, played an important role in the crushing of the noble revolt led by the Duke of Monmouth, he/she beat hard-hitting at the battle of Sedgemoor, July 5 form of the year 1685.

The friendship and close cooperation between the brilliant general and the monarch turned into declared enmity when Marlborough openly criticized the policy that Jacobo II adopted in the Kingdom, blatantly pro-catolica and openly hostile to Protestants. Fervent defender of Protestantism, Churchill was one of the first English noblemen who came in secret contact with Guillermo de Orange. James II, in order to finally drag him to their religious cause, Churchill appointed lieutenant general, just the same year in which the pretender to the English throne landed on the island, in November of the year 1688. Marlborough joined noble conspiracy that eventually expel Jacobo II from the English throne and offering the Kingdom to the Dutch Prince, who went on to rule with the name Guillermo III (1689-1702). Payment to the loyalty and services rendered to the cause of the new monarch, Churchill was appointed in the year 1689, Earl of Marlborough and member of the Privy Council of the King, in addition to being confirmed in their former military rank.

Between 1689-1691, considered more capable military from England was assigned as Commander of the English troops in Ireland in order to quell the ongoing nationalist uprisings. It carried out the taking of the cities of Cork and Kinsale, to then go to the Netherlands for the same purpose. In both places, Marlborough got always victorious in all the armed clashes in which participated.

But the star of Churchill went off suddenly when his wife, Sarah Jennings, mixed her husband in bitter disputes that the Princess Ana claimed his sister the Queen María, wife of Guillermo III. The position of the general became rather complicated due to its conservative political positions, because of which was harshly attacked by the powerful liberal faction which dominated the House of Commons in those moments. The circumstance that accelerated the fall in disgrace of Marlborough and his subsequent departure of the Court was the fact that, in the year 1692 was accused of high treason and conspiracy against the King to discover the secret correspondence maintained with the exile of James II, at the time exiled in France. According to these letters, it seems that Churchill, disenchanted by the quick promotion that certain generals had achieved in the ranks of the army and had surpassed him, had agreed to put at the head of a large army that Jacobo II had recruited in France, which was planning to invade the island in November of that same year from Cherbourg (France).

Finally held for a short time in the famous Tower of London, Churchill was released for lack of conclusive evidence about his betrayal. However, little by little, the great general is was reconciling with the monarch, although he/she went on to a second discrete flat and not already returned to play in public affairs or military the dominant role that had served the previous years. Ryswyk peace signing, on 20 September the year 1697, and the beginning of the war of the Spanish Succession provided the defenestrated Churchill the second chance that both had hoped. His star began to regain their former intensity to be named Commander of the British troops quartered in the Netherlands, in a palpable sample by this monarch of political realism and pragmatism by Guillermo III.

Ana reign: the triumph of Marlboroug.

The advent to the throne of Anne (1702-1714), enabled Churchill to the accurate measurement of their excellent military skills, at the same time that opened the most brilliant period of his life: in addition to exercise a powerful influence over the Queen thanks to the intrigues of his wife and the Handlings, Churchill reached the rank of Captain of all the British troops in the war of the Spanish succession, pre-eminence that took its worthy climax when he/she was named Supreme Commander of the Allied armies (Netherlands, Austria, Prussia and England). Developed a leading role in the long war started to settle who should occupy the appealing Spanish throne, vacant after the death in 1700 of the unfortunate Spanish monarch Carlos II (1665-1700), last representative of the Habsburg Spanish.

Endowed with an extraordinary diplomatic talent, only equaled by its leadership, and thanks to the extreme care that always spent in the preparation of their troops, Marlborough was able to hold together all the powers allied in a common front and a single goal: defeating the all-powerful French monarch Luis XIV.

In 1702 reached resonant and important triumphs by submitting to the French in the streets of Kaiscuwerth, Venlo and Liège, feats that Queen Anne named him Marquis of Blandford.A despite the poor existing coordination between the General partners, in the year 1704 Marlborough moved his field of operations to Germany, where allied with Eugenio de Saboyawith whose troops managed to escape the siege imposed by the French generals Tallart and Marsin, which seriously threatened the Austrian imperial capital, Vienna.

After crossing the Danube to marches forced by Schellemberg, Churchill reorganized his troops and attacked by surprise the franco-bavaros close Blenheim, August 13 armies of the same year. In the course of the war, Churchill destroyed completely for the bulk of the troops enemy, let out some 40,000 soldiers French and Bavarian, fact that it constituted a definitive blow to the hitherto unquestioned hegemony exercised by Luis XIV. Battle of Blenheim Churchill provided an immense fame. Queen Anne appointed him Duke of Marlborough and offered him a Royal mansion in Woodstock, on which was subsequently built superb Castle of Blenheim, financed entirely with the Royal treasure. For its part, the Austrian Emperor Leopoldo I (1658-1705) offered him the Principality of Mindelheim and extensive properties confiscated from the Bavarians.

Marlborough continued to reap important victories during the war: in Ramilies, on 23 May of the year 1706, literally swept the armies of the French general Villeroi, victory that enabled the further advance and complete domination of all the Netherlands the Allied troops; in June 1708 attended the battle of Oudenaarde in which definitely pushed the French troops south of the border with the Netherlands. A year before this last battle, in a secret interview that he/she kept in the month of April, Marlborough scored a great both diplomatic to convince the Swedish sovereign Carlos XII (1697-1718) so that this country does not fit into the war in support of France and remained neutral.

New fall in disgrace of Marlborough

Although France already seemed lost without remedy, the rigorous demands made by the allied countries, against the opinion of Churchill, Luis XIV forced to continue the war. The French monarch entrusted all his army to the efficient general Villars, endowed as Marlborough's true military genius, who knew how to breathe to the insufficient and discouraged French troops an extraordinary moral when going into battle. The battle of Malplaquet, September 11 the year 1709, ended in another victory of Marlborough, but this time the French army fell back in perfect order of battle and caused a number of casualties on the Allied troops. The Pyrrhic victory of Marlborough was exploited by his powerful enemies, envious of its prestige as a general and the privileged position that maintained in court, to discredit him in the eyes of the Queen Anne, to the extent that could not conclude the war as it was his desire to once again fall into misfortune. At the same time, recklessness and the intriguing character of his wife ended up damaging all his prestige and put him back in a position that is very difficult to sustain. Fearful that her new faction tory, headed by Henry Saint John and Robert Haley, hostile to the maintenance of the war with France, would undermine her husband, Sarah Jennings induced her husband so it popped into the Liberal ranks, circumstance that greatly displeased the sovereign of a deeply conservative mood. The immediate fall of the favorite of the Queen dragged helplessly to her husband, who, in the year 1711, was unjustly accused of embezzlement of public funds allocated to cover the costs of the war.

Dismissed from all his positions, both political and military, and tremendously disillusioned with the intrigue and courtly cliques, Churchill autoexilió during two long years in the continent; He/She traveled in Belgium and the Netherlands until finally it ended up in his Bavarian possessions of Mindelheim, which also ended up losing after the signing of the peace of Utrecht, 13 July of the year 1713.

Last years of Marlborough

Churchill did not return to England until the death of Queen Anne. It was then restored in all its charges by new monarch, Jorge I (1714-1727), although he/she would not again to functions of the first rank. Away completely from all the political and military affairs, in the year 1716 withdrew definitively to his farm in Windsor, where he/she died in the year 1722. His wife, always said that a sincere and dangerous love, and played, for better and for worse, a decisive role in his life, survived him until the year 1744.

Assessment of the figure of John Marlborough

Although as a politician he/she was brilliant successes, as soldier was unique in its time, it introduced in war tactics innovations that achieved resounding victories, to the point that it was one of the more respected by Napoleón Bonaparte General. All his movements were carefully calculated and developed under the most absolute of secrets, so always surprising the enemy with unexpected departures. All these qualities were countered by an excessive ambition and a lack of character and determination in his private life to be dominated and subject to the political ambitions of his influential wife.

However, it was still one of the most glorious generals that took England in its military history, its historical memory was not rescued and revalued to its extent until the most illustrious of his descendants, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1940-1945, 1951-1955), wrote a full work upon him, in the year 1947, entitled Marlborough: His Life and Times (Marlborough(: his life and his time).


CHANDLER, David. The art of warfare in the age of Marlborough. (Staplehurst; Spellmount. 1990).

LEÓN SANZ, María Virginia. Between Habsburgs and Bourbons. (Madrid; Stealth. 1993).

SANZ ayaì n, Carmen. The war of the Spanish succession. (Madrid; Akal. 1997).

Carlos Herraiz García.